1974 Cy Young Award winner Mike Marshall, who now resides near Tampa, researches the physics of pitching mechanics.
A year ago, I interviewed Dr. Mike Marshall, the 1974 National League Cy Young Award winner who later became a controversial advocate for a radical overhaul of pitching mechanics. You can learn more at his web site, DrMikeMarshall.com.
Since then, Dr. Marshall has contacted me from time to time for advice about video editing. He let me know yesterday that his first newly edited video is now available on YouTube. Click on the arrow below to watch the video.
I found particularly interesting how Mike put stripes or dots on a ball to make it easier for you to see in slow motion the rotation on a pitched ball.
I just returned from a week-long trip to Phoenix to cover the Angels’ fall instructional league for my other web site, FutureAngels.com.
Driving around Mesa, I saw signs promoting or opposing Proposition 420, a ballot measure designed to keep the Chicago Cubs’ spring training and minor league complex in the city.
As with the Nationals here in the Space Coast, the Cubs have made noises about moving elsewhere. They threatened to leave Arizona altogether, courting business groups in Naples, but those interests finally decided to stop playing the game last July once the Cubs reached a tenative agreement with Mesa.
The Mesa scheme relies on a ballot initiative that would allow the city to sell 11,000 acres of surplus land in Pinal County which would help pay for stadium construction, with the Cubs responsible for any cost overruns.
KeepTheCubs.com is the web site for Prop. 420. The site claims, “Prop. 420 keeps $138 million in Mesa & Az each year; no new or increased taxes!” In a cursory search of the web site, I was unable to find any explanation of how the $138 million figure was reached, or assumptions made about the value of the land to be sold.
“A Yes vote Proposition 420 will boost Mesa’s economy by launching a project worth tens of millions of dollars in jobs and revenue to the city and making certain the Cubs stay in Mesa for another generation,” the site claims. Again, no explanation for how that conclusion was reached or what was the methodology.
An October 13, 2010 editorial in the East Valley Tribune endorsed Prop. 420.
As you’re deciding which way to vote on Nov. 2, ask yourself this: Which is greater, the amount of money the city wants to spend on a new spring training facility, or the amount of revenue it will generate? The answer is clearly the latter.
Again, no explanation for how they reached the conclusion that it would generate more money than it costs.
The complex would be surrounded by a retail district called Wrigleyville that is described by the paper as another Downtown Disney. But it’s unclear to me who would be the ultimate property owner — the City of Mesa, or the Chicago Cubs. If it’s the city, then it would appear the property will be leased to the Cubs, and therefore not generate any property tax revenue.
This is one of my main concerns with publicly-funded ballpark schemes. They promise untold wealth for the community, but such promises are often based on dubious assumptions, and rarely are other uses ever debated.
The opposition web site is VoteNo420.com, a domain name that links to a blog called Mesa Spring Training Stadium. It’s much more modest than the pro-420 site, lacking fancy graphics or any content other than a series of blog posts.
Driving around Mesa, I saw signs for both sites, but clearly the pro-420 people have larger and more numerous signs throughout the community. It would be interesting to visit Mesa City Hall to find out who is paying for the pro-420 web site and campaign signs.
The Mesa negotiations should be a case study for what may happen here in Brevard County as the Nationals start moving in the direction of their own ultimatum for a state-of-the-art facility, threatening to go elsewhere in Florida or even Arizona. I’ve never understood why a multi-billion dollar industry expects subsidies from local taxpayers. Does Wal-Mart expect a city to pay for their building? Of course not. But baseball barons can always find some starry-eyed elected official willing to compromise the public interest in exchange for attaching a professional baseball team’s name to their community.
Florida Today baseball writer Mark DeCotis broke the story on August 6 that the Washington Nationals have contacted Osceola County about moving their spring training complex to Kissimmee.
If the Nats move, the irony is that it would be the second time Brevard County has lost a major league club to Kissimmee. The Astros left Cocoa Expo Stadium in 1984 for Kissimmee.
I wrote on April 3 about Florida Today reporting that Nationals officials were touring a facility in Ft. Myers that’s currently used by the Boston Red Sox.
Nationals officials have not commented publicly on their dalliances with Osceola and Lee Counties, but a letter obtained by DeCotis made it clear the Nationals were interested in exploring a move to Kissimmee.
Washington Nationals President Stan Kasten sent a letter to Osceola County officials last month expressing interest in possibly moving the team’s spring training home from Viera to Osceola County Stadium in Kissimmee.
Kasten sent the letter to Osceola County Manager Don Fisher. In the correspondence dated July 26, Kasten wrote to Fisher: “It was nice speaking to you last Thursday and it was very interesting hearing about the potential for a new spring training complex in Osceola County.
“I would certainly be interested in meeting with you and hearing more about your plans in greater detail, as we consider our own future spring training plans. In the event Osceola County is interested in moving forward, please let me know.”
If you’re of a conspiratorial bent, it would be reasonable to assume that Kasten knew full well any written correspondence he sent to Osceola would be a public document and potentially leaked.
The July 26 letter might have been intended to pressure Brevard officials into approving improvements for Space Coast Stadium. Florida Today reported on August 4 that county commissioners approved $316,000 in improvements for 2011. The letter was sent a week before the Brevard vote.
The Nationals’ lease runs through December 31, 2017, so if they leave “the club must reimburse the county for Space Coast Stadium construction-bond payments until another team moves in, said Shannon Wilson, assistant county attorney.”
As for Lee County, the Ft. Myers News-Press reported on August 6 that “the county remains interested in the Nationals.”
Jeff Mielke, executive director of the Lee County Sports Authority, wasn’t surprised to hear the Nationals are showing interest elsewhere.
“We all thought the Nationals would shop around,” Mielke said.
He believes it’s likely that the Nationals could leave Florida’s east coast. Miami, Fort Lauderdale, West Palm Beach and Vero Beach all had spring training teams but no longer do. That makes for few convenient road trips for the Nationals.
“I don’t think it’s any secret that the east coast is getting a little tougher,” Mielke said.
The Nationals are hardly the only major league team to play hardball with a municipal landlord.
Most recently, the Chicago Cubs played Mesa, Arizona against Naples, Florida, hoping to extort stadium improvements out of Mesa. But Naples withdrew in July, leaving the Cubs without their leverage.
In November 2003, Los Angeles Angels owner Arte Moreno threatened to move the team’s spring training complex from Tempe, Arizona across the Phoenix valley to Goodyear, where Moreno was a partner in a residential and commercial development. The extortion worked, as one year later Tempe agreed to finance $20 million in stadium improvements, including a new minor league complex.
The local financial benefits are questionable for a municipality to host a major league baseball spring training.
Studies will often cite gross revenue and other indirect impacts. One example is this 1999 study by the Tampa Bay Regional Planning Council which concluded that the “Total impact of the nine teams on Florida’s economy is $227 million.”
But the study failed to look at the costs accrued by cities, counties and the State of Florida to build and maintain publicly owned facilities. Nor did they consider alternate uses of public land that might generate more revenue. Public land is not subject to property tax, while private land is.
Neither do these studies mention that most of these facilities include a minor league complex that will operate almost year-around, with games played from March through October. No revenue is generated from those games, as no admission or parking fee is charged, but municipal landlords are responsible for maintenance and rehabilitation costs unless otherwise specified in the lease.
Should the Nationals threaten to leave, Brevard County should conduct a thorough economic study that weighs these other options. In the long run, would the county receive more revenue from another land use at Space Coast Stadium? One scenario might be to raze the ballpark, and sell the land for residential and commerical use. The minor league complex might be preserved for use by amateur adult and youth sports.
The orphan in most of these scenarios would be the Brevard County Manatees of the Florida State League. The Manatees are a Milwaukee Brewers affiliate, not a Nationals affiliate. Space Coast Stadium’s 8,000-seat capacity is way too much for the Manatees’ needs. The Manatees are averaging about 1,300 per game in 2010; even in their best years, they rarely average more than 2,000.
The Manatees would be best served by construction of a 2,500-seat capacity stadium. An excellent location, in my opinion, would be the current site of Cocoa Expo at the I-95 and the 520 highway. But either the county would have to buy the site, or investors would, and neither scenario seems likely right now. So if the Nationals leave, it might mean the eventual departure of the Manatees franchise to elsewhere in Florida.
I’ve always felt that baseball teams should pay for their own facilities, but there seems to be an endless supply of municipalities willing to subsidize a multi-billion dollar industry for ego or pride. Many taxpayers think these facilities are paid by the same funds that pay for police and fire, but that’s simply not true. The typical scheme is the creation of a special enterprise fund that raises money from a local hotel tax, a slice of ticket sales and parking fees, perhaps state economic development funds. But regardless of the funding source, I wish more municipalities would tell these billionaires to stick it.
Nick Green was once a top pitching prospect in the Los Angeles Angels minor league system.
The minor league camps close today, meaning we should know within the next day or two who will be assigned to the Brevard County Manatees.
MLB.com reports that Nick Green will be assigned to Brevard as a closer. Green was once a top pitching prospect in the Angels’ minor league system, known for his “plus” changeup.
Some of you may know that I’ve followed the Angels’ minor leagues for many years, and run another site FutureAngels.com, so I’m very familiar with Nick.
Green was a full-time starter for Triple-A Salt Lake in 2008, posting a 5.32 ERA in 159 innings. Salt Lake is a high-elevation ballpark, as are several other parks in the PCL’s Pacific Conference, so most pitchers see their ERA suffer when they go to Salt Lake. He was claimed by the Brewers on waivers in February 2009, when the Angels tried to move him off the 40-man roster. A neck injury set him back last year, although he did manage to appear in seven games for Double-A Huntsville and Triple-A Nashville.
I filmed Green pitching for the Angels’ Double-A Arkansas affiliate in June 2007. Click here to watch the video. You need Windows Media Player and a broadband (cable modem, DSL) Internet connection to watch.
I’m waiting to learn the fate of 2009 Manatees catcher Martin Maldonado. The Brewers kept him with the parent club to help with the pitching staff, but he was reassigned to minor league camp yesterday. Maldonado is another Angels alumnus.
The Brewers picked up another Angel farmhand last week. The Angels released catcher Ben Johnson, but Milwaukee promptly signed him and sent him to Triple-A Nashville. Johnson is on the Sounds’ opening day roster.
The Milwaukee Journal-Sentinel reports that 2009 Manatees second baseman Eric Farris will skip Double-A and begin 2010 with Triple-A Nashville.
According to this post on the Milwaukee Journal-Sentinel web site, 2009 Manatees’ second baseman Eric Farris has made the leap all the way to Triple-A.
Most of the 2009 Manatees top prospects seem to be going to Double-A Huntsville. The article reports that Mark Rogers, Amaury Rivas, Michael Bowman and Alex Periard will open 2010 with the Stars. It also says that Evan Anundsen will begin the year on the disabled list with a slight shoulder problem. Lee Haydel and Caleb Gindl also report to Huntsville.
I’ll post more on Manatees assignments as they become available. We should also have news to announce in the next day or two about SpaceCoastBaseball.com webcasting some of the Manatees games.
1974 Cy Young Award winner Mike Marshall, who now resides near Tampa, researches the physics of pitching mechanics.
Is he right?
I’ve no idea.
Mike Marshall certainly believes he’s right, though, and he’s amassed a large body of evidence on his web site, DrMikeMarshall.com.
I drove over to Dr. Marshall’s home in Zephyrhills, near Tampa, where we recorded a 70-minute interview. Click here to watch the interview. Windows Media Player and a broadband (cable modem, DSL) Internet connection required.
Marshall first became known to the baseball world thanks to Ball Four by Jim Bouton. Marshall was a cerebral pitcher knowledgeable about players’ union issues, and Bouton’s chess-playing buddy. They were two members of the Seattle Pilots, a 1969 American League expansion team that moved next spring to Milwaukee and became today’s Brewers.
For Marshall, baseball was just a way to pay for his graduate school studies at Michigan State. He earned a Masters of Science in 1967 in physical education, and a Doctorate in 1978 in Exercise Physiology. He used baseball as his research tool, to test how his body performed and apply that to his growing knowledge of biomechanics. According to his web site, his doctorate dissertation was, “A Comparison of an Estimate of Skeletal Age With Chronological Age When Classifying Adolescent Males for Motor Proficiency Norms.”
Mike applied what he was learning to his pitching mechanics. He began his minor league career as a shortstop in 1961 — he hit .304 with 14 HR for Magic Valley in the Pioneer League in 1963 — but switched to the mound in 1965. His career was unremarkable until 1972, when at age 29 he posted a 1.78 ERA in 56 relief appearances (116.0 IP) for the Montreal Expos. In 1973, he posted a 2.66 ERA in 92 games (179.0 IP).
The Expos traded Marshall that winter to the Dodgers for veteran outfielder Willie Davis. Mike appeared in 106 games (208.1 IP), all in relief, helped the Dodgers to the World Series, and was named the National League’s Cy Young Award winner.
Marshall credits a total overhaul of his pitching mechanics, applying what he’d learned at Michigan State. During this time, as he blossomed into perhaps the league’s best reliever, he was an adjunct professor at MSU.
Much has been written over the years about Mike’s theories. The baseball establishment seems to have rejected his proposal to totally change pitching mechanics. Major League Baseball is hidebound on its best days, so it’s unrealistic to expect them to abandon the way pitchers currently throw for a radically different approach.
Mike is fiercely passionate, but also fiercely logical, about the subject. He approaches the issue as a researcher, as a scientist. He argues quite rightly that a lot of money is wasted on creating a major league pitcher only to have him break down. We’ve all seen plenty of free-agent pitchers hit the jackpot only to break down before their contract ends.
The Nationals signed #1 draft pick Stephen Strasburg to a four-year $15.1 million contract. I showed Marshall a clip I filmed last October of Strasburg’s pro debut in fall instructional league. Strasburg hadn’t pitched in game competition for four months, so this wasn’t Stephen at his best, and I told Mike that. In the interview, Mike comments briefly on what he saw, although he acknowledged off-camera he would like to observe Strasburg from multiple angles with a super-slow motion camera to make a more informed judgment.
In any case, Strasburg is an example of a massive investment by a major league organization, which carries with it a massive risk. But I can’t imagine the Nationals sending Strasburg to Zephyrhills to have Marshall overhaul his mechanics. How would GM Mike Rizzo explain to the press that he’d invested $15 million in a guy whose mechanics were so bad he had to be rebuilt from scratch? The end result, of course, is unforeseen. And there are hundreds of pitching coaches and scouts around organized baseball who, trained to teach the traditional mechanics, would strenuously disagree with Marshall’s theories — not because he’s wrong, but it’s all they know.
I’m certainly no expert when it comes to pitching mechanics, much less kinesiology and biomechanics. Marshall is right when he says baseball needs to find a way to reduce pitcher injuries, given the millions and millions of dollars invested in their development. Are Mike’s theories the answer? I can’t tell you. More knowledgeable people than me have tried. But it’s certainly a debate worth having, and if MLB was more visionary they would finance research towards reducing pitcher injuries.
It’s just a lot easier to shovel millions of dollars to an ace pitcher and leave the egghead stuff for someone else.
This article also appears on FutureAngels.com, our affiliated blog.
Stephen Strasburg, the #1 pick in the June 2009 draft, made his professional debut October 5 at Space Coast Stadium. SpaceCoastBaseball.com was there to film it.
Welcome to Space Coast Baseball.
You must have questions.
The first one is probably, “What’s with the geeky Space Coast name?!”
Well, “Space Coast” is actually a term used by locals to refer to a region of central Florida that roughly aligns with Brevard County. It includes Cape Canaveral, Cocoa Beach, Merritt Island, Titusville, Cocoa, Melbourne, Viera, Rockledge and many other towns. As you might suspect, the name comes from Kennedy Space Center, which is five miles up the road from where I’m writing you now.
Your next question might be, “Which team do you cover?”
Space Coast Baseball doesn’t cover one team, it covers professional and amateur baseball in the Space Coast region.
We have a Milwaukee Brewers affiliate, the Advanced-A Brevard County Manatees in the Florida State League. They play in Space Coast Stadium in Viera, which is run by the Washington Nationals. The Nats have their minor league complex here, and a team in the Rookie-A Gulf Coast League.
Starting October 30, 2009, the Florida Winter Baseball League begins play. This is a new league formed by a group of investors who are trying to create a U.S. equivalent to the winter leagues in the Dominican Republic, Puerto Rico, Mexico, and Venezuela. Ken Griffey, Sr. is the league commissioner. Orlando “El Duque” Hernandez is one of the investors. Former Reds/Mets slugger George Foster will manage one of the teams.
The Space Coast Surge, one of four FWBL teams, will play in Cocoa Expo Stadium. This historic facility was the spring training home of the Houston Astros from the mid-1960s through the early 1980s. It was also the spring training home of the Florida Marlins in 1993, until Space Coast Stadium opened for them in 1994.
We also have college ball at nearby Brevard Community College and Florida Tech, semi-pro ball and amateur leagues.
The Space Coast Baseball blog is an adjunct to my existing web site, SpaceCoastbaseball.com. The web site will have news, features, interviews, photos, audio and video. I suspect the video clips will be very popular. The latest video is of Stephen Strasburg’s pro debut October 5 at Space Coast Stadium. This isn’t the boring ESPN video shot from high up in the press box. This is me behind home plate with my camcorder filming through the net so you get the same perspective as the batter.
Click Here to watch the Strasburg video. You need Windows Media Player and a broadband (cable modem, DSL) Internet connection to watch.
This blog will be a complement to that main site, so you’ll want to bookmark both. The blog is more for every day commentary, although there will be crossover for sure.
A quick note on my background … I moved here in June 2009 from Southern California, where I was a lifelong Angels fan. Since 1998, I’ve run a web site FutureAngels.com that covers the Angels’ minor leagues. I also have an Angels blog here on MLBlogs.com called the FutureAngels.com Blog. You’ll see some Space Coast news over on the FutureAngels.com Blog, although now that this new blog is established most of it will be here.
Both FutureAngels.com and SpaceCoastBaseball.com are non-commerical enterprises. They are service-oriented sites, meaning they exist to be of help to those with an interest in those subjects. FutureAngels.com got its start years ago by providing photos and news for the Angels players’ parents, as well as fans who didn’t know much about the minors. Twelve years later, the Internet pretty much saturates us with anything we want to know about minor league ball, but since I enjoy documenting the history of the game you’ll see, hear and read a lot that normally doesn’t show up in mainstream media or fan sites.
So check out the SpaceCoastBaseball.com web site and stay tuned. This project is go for launch.